It’s the last Friday of 2017. It snowed last night and this morning, and I’m fully ensconced in the cosiest comfort zone here, sipping piping hot rooibos tea in the studio. I’ve just checked over some audio files I delivered last week on a mighty tight deadline – you know, just to make sure, peace of mind and all that – and having a think about the mountain of work and life stuff I’ve somehow managed to plough through in the year just gone.
I think my theme for 2017 might have been ‘getting out of my comfort zone’. I said YES to bunch of opportunities I perhaps wouldn’t normally have gone for. Sometimes it worked really well for me, sometimes it… didn’t quite turn out as I’d hoped. I learned a LOT about how, why and when to ‘get out’ of said ‘comfort zone’ for maximum value…
HOW to get out of the comfort zone
… when I’m properly recharged, when I’ve researched and prepared, when I’ve had sufficient thinking time to weigh pros and cons in order to prioritise the events or projects I’m considering. A nibble at a time, not every opportunity all at once. With ‘buffer’ time scheduled in afterwards to decompress, analyse the experience and extract the juicy educational matter, mmm…
WHY to get out of the comfort zone
… when the return on investment potential is high and the journey is also a reward in itself; when it cements or encourages a pre-existing business or personal relationship (love your tribe, etc); when there’s valuable information to be learned or it encourages personal or professional growth or a less fearful way of being in the world.
Not because someone else, or society at large, said I should.
WHEN to get out of the comfort zone
… when there isn’t an imminent deadline. Leaving the comfort zone is a learning opportunity, a time for exploration, for taking risks with the potential for failure, not a time for added ‘fight or flight’ stress. The former leads to unexpected inspiration and creative insight; the latter leads to anxiety and panic attacks (which is a new and unexpected development for me! Yay. Jeez).
WHAT IS my idea of a comfort zone anyway?
I’ve banged on about it enough now – what do I mean by comfort zone? Time to get specific.
It’s both physical and mental, work or home related. It’s everywhere and every person with whom I feel safe, supported, and secure. It’s where my energy reserves aren’t depleted but rather replenished. It is a gift – a place to recharge and come out fighting for the next great adventure into uncertainty.
It might be a duvet day; a breakfast date with John; a project that’s well within my abilities and fits in comfortably around other work and life commitments; working in a warm studio at home; working on my own or with people I’ve worked with many times before; reading a good book; food I like; emailing instead of phoning, wrapping up in a blanket in front of Star Trek TNG. I’m talking ease.
I recommend making your own comfort zone list. I feel rather cosy and calm after typing that out. It’s quite lovely.
I also learned to LOVE the comfort zone…
For some reason, I can’t possibly think why (hellooooo, catholic upbringing and media industry culture!), up ’til now I’ve felt guilty about being in the comfort zone.
I’d get all comfort-zoney, and enjoy the heck out of it, but I’d feel like I’d have to be secretive about it. I’m pretty sure I could unpack a ton of catholic guilt out of this if I was so inclined, but that’s not fair on you. Instead, let’s just say the guilt was three-fold (ooh religious connotations?):
- I didn’t want to be seen to be bragging about how much I was loving the ease of it.
- I didn’t feel I’d earned it (I hadn’t worked hard enough to justify it).
- It wasn’t valuable – I wasn’t stretching myself, I wasn’t being ambitious enough, I wasn’t suffering enough for my art etc etc.
BUT when I ‘do’ Comfort Zoning™ right…
After a while, I naturally want to push on and poke through that bubble edge into riskier territory. My resilience is buoyed and my battery stats are full – with these resources I can withstand any unpredictability. In fact, I’ll actively seek out novelty, variety and challenge for the sake of it. I’m open, motivated and inspired rather than cagey, distrustful and judgemental (moi? oui, it me). Especially if I know there’s another comfort zone at the other end.
Lesson learned: Don’t be ashamed of the comfort zone. It is my friend. It is essential.
Happy New Year everyone xxx